My Experience Buying Affordable Solar Panels for Emergency Power
For starters, I am not a solar expert though I have done my share of reading. Being that I’m on a fixed budget I’m not looking to replace my source of power from the grid by any stretch, but I do have a need to produce some minimal power in the case of an emergency to charge phones, walkie talkies, batteries, flashlights or even provide enough juice to run a few power tools.
I don’t consider buying a small scale solar power system a waste of money if your finances are limited because you may end up needing something to get you buy before you are financially able to install a grid-equivalent system in your home. Not to mention having a small system will allow mobility if you want to bug out.
We picked up the Thunderbolt Magnum 45 Watt Solar Panel kit on sale last month. Now before you start laughing, I know that 45 watts is not a ton of power at all, however paired with a few 12 volt LiFePO4 batteries it would provide enough power to recharge your electronics and perform a few meaningful tasks that you otherwise could not. The panels are considered “amorphous” panels which are less efficient but are more affordable and have a greater resistance to heat, so there are pros and cons to any panel type. There are three panels, 15 watts each. The small system comes with a rather cheap charge controller, but it works. You can always upgrade to a nicer one if you plan on expanding your solar power system in the future. However, I like the fact that it has 12v, 6v and USB outputs on it and also has an output for an inverter (not included). Setting up the unit is really easy and has a PVC mount for the panels – you don’t even need a screw driver. The kit also comes with a couple of 12v CFL bulbs that I’d probably never use since I have LED bulbs that I’d run on my system.
If you own a camper or RV and need an extra power supply these rascals would work great for you. But as I mentioned earlier this is just an emergency power solution for me otherwise we would have nothing if the power went out. It’s truly a great starter kit for people that are new to solar and it’s easy to understand.
A lot of times you can find this solar set on sale on Harbor Freight or find a coupon in most Sunday papers if you have a Harbor Freight store near you. You can also find them on Amazon but they tend to be a bit more expensive.